Sometimes when a friend is sharing their feelings about how sad, or hurt or disappointed they are, we tend to reply with stories of our own that are similar. But maybe at times that isn't what they need - they just need to be heard.
Why do we do this? We may get caught up worrying about not saying the right thing so we talk about something else, maybe a story of when the same thing happened to us, or someone else we know. We don’t want them to feel alone, but to know that there are others who have gone through the same thing. Or, you get uncomfortable when your friend is sharing their emotions so openly and so your default is to go into a more comfortable space for yourself, not addressing or replying directly to their emotions.
The result is you unintentionally draw the focus away from your friend and onto yourself, leaving your friend feeling unheard, and maybe even a little worse after talking with you.
Next time someone is sharing their feelings of a difficult situation they are going through, try this:
- Listen intently and don’t interrupt with your own story.
- Keep your replies focused on what the person is sharing with you.
- Ask questions to encourage the person to continue.
- Make a conscious effort to listen more and talk less.
- After the person has shared with you, ask them if they’d like advice or if they just want you to listen. You may find that they actually DO want advice and then go for it! But then, they may just need to talk to you and have you listen.
Most importantly, try not to be too nervous or worried about what you say. If you try these suggestions you actually will be saying less and listening more!